Way before it morphed into a billion dollar industry, Southeast Asia was an early pioneer of the health retreat. Today, every type of wellness experience imaginable is on offer from tai chi in China, weight loss in the Philippines, jungle boot camps in Bali, to luxe surfing retreats in the Maldives, providing something for everyone wanting to leave their holiday feeling healthier and stronger than when they arrived.
Words by Sheriden Rhodes
Hatha and Ashtanga are the go-to forms of yoga, but why not extend your repertoire with aerial yoga, yogalates, or even aqua yoga? In Bali, the newly-opened Rev¯iv¯o (revivoresort.com) Aqua Yoga Fitmat class builds strength, deepens flexibility, and improves balance and coordination. Super fun, aqua yoga focuses the mind, because let’s face it, who wants to fall into the pool?
Anti-gravity yoga – supported by strong hammocks – is also another fun way to get outside your comfort zone. Try it at the waterfront yoga bale at the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay (fourseasons.com), and at the lotus petal inspired Dharma Shanti Yoga Bale overlooking terraced rice fields at Four Seasons Bali Sayan. Meanwhile the Como Uma Canggu (comohotels.com), offers two slick new yoga and pilates studios with a raft of classes, including yogalates and rocket (acro) yoga.
If you’re an experienced yogi wanting to take the next step, Soneva Kiri (soneva.com) offers the ultimate in yoga teacher training with a month-long stay on the unspoiled Thai island of Koh Kood – butler service included.
If you’ve ever spent time watching surfers, you may have noticed their muscular physique and sun-kissed skin. Surfing is undoubtedly a great sport for those looking to challenge and ‘renew’ themselves – even sitting on your board looking at the ocean is meditation in itself. Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and the Maldives all offer the opportunity to hit the waves. Bali and Thailand are good places to learn to surf; Sri Lanka, Sumba in Indonesia and the Maldives are better suited to those with more waves under their belt.
Beginner surfers will love Surf Goddess Retreats’ (surfgoddessretreats.com) supportive, all-female environment, smack bang in the heart of Bali’s trendy Seminyak. The program combines yoga twice daily, healthy food and pampering with five days of surf (or SUP) lessons with instructors from Rip Curl School of Surf. Como Uma Canggu (comohotels.com) and Tropicsurf, also in Bali, offer lessons at a choice of six surf breaks. With surfing just off the beach, this is an ideal place for beginner and intermediate surfers.
Meanwhile luxury resort operator Soneva (soneva.com), recently launched the world’s first ‘sustainable surfing’ program in the Maldives’ Baa and Noonu Atolls. All of the equipment it offers is eco-friendly including surfboards, leashes, fins, rash guards and wax. It hopes the initiative will facilitate a more conscientious approach to surfing.
If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends, can’t put your phone down, and are fuelled by caffeine, you’re an ideal candidate for a detox retreat. Today’s detox retreats are less about deprivation, and more about unwinding from the stresses of modern day life and choosing your own path of wellness. “We’re all exposed to toxins in the air, in our food, and in the water that we drink and bathe in. While these are often in minute amounts, toxins gradually accumulate in the body over time, which can result in us feeling heavy, sluggish, uncomfortable, and lacking in energy,” says Phoebe Boonkerd, wellness director at Amatara Wellness Resort in Phuket (amataraphuket.com), Thailand, which offers a program including blood pressure check-up, physical analysis and food tailored to improve digestion.
Keemala, in Kamala on the west coast of Phuket (keemala.com), located on a hillside amongst lush forest, offers a customised holistic program including massages, treatments and cuisine to ease guests into natural detoxification and introduce a path to healthy living. Eco-conscious Balinese healing and wellness destination Five Elements Puri Ahimsa (fiveelements.org) offers healing, detox and wellness programs in the lush jungles near Ubud. Meditation, yoga, spa sessions and award winning gourmet menus of plant-based vegan ‘living’ foods are all on the menu. At Kamalaya, (kamalaya.com) also in Thailand on Koh Samui, a wellness program offers acupuncture, Chinese medicine, naturopathy, sleep enhancement retreats and seductive Ayurvedic spa treatments. There’s also detox cuisine, a herbal steam cavern, plunge pools, infrared sauna, colonic rooms and a yoga pavilion, so you leave not only a few kilos lighter, but with a spring in your step too.
Whether it’s a coconut body wrap, a luxurious facial, or an Indian head massage, time spent in the spa can feel like a holiday.
In the heart of the Indonesian Anambas Archipelago, the eco-luxury resort Bawah Reserve (bawahreserve.com) offers a holistic wellness centre with yoga, massages and spa treatments included into the room rate, and guarantees minimum of two spa treatments per day.
Amatara Phuket’s 2,000 sqm destination spa is the island’s most comprehensive wellness centre. Expert therapists deliver everything from Chi Nei Tsang healing abdominal massage and detox therapies through to a three-hour Thai hammam (Turkish bath) experience overlooking the Andaman Sea. On Vietnam’s iconic China Beach, the wellness experience at the Four Seasons Nam Hai (fourseasons.com) starts with the sound from eight synchronised quartz crystal alchemy bowls which recalibrate and balance your energy. Treatments meld aromatherapy, Ayurveda, and herbal traditions.
The luxe new Fusion Maia Da Nang (fusionresorts.com) also offers inclusive spa treatments (at least two treatments guaranteed per day, per guest) in its room rate. Try a warming coconut wrap, a balancing foot massage or holistic and blissful head therapy.
Holidays that incorporate a walk are having their moment in the sun. Options are many and range from trekking through jungle at Bawah Reserve, hiking to the top of Mt Batur in Bali, or exploring the customs, traditions, and barely touched terrain of Japan’s lesser-known rural areas with Walk Japan (walkjapan.com).
Meanwhile, at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong (mandarinoriental.com), guests can explore the city’s wild side. Choose from hiking deserted beaches on the Sai Kung Peninsula or trekking the highlands’ lush forest landscapes, home to secret waterfalls.
The best bit? That feeling of elation when you’ve climbed that mountain, left footprints on a deserted beach, and explored the path less travelled.
Travellers are increasingly seeking activities that combine nature and exertion – with many people no longer content to just flop and drop by the pool.
At the Muay Thai gym you can work up a sweat with a traditional Thai boxing class followed by a blissful massage at the Ritz Carlton Koh Samui’s spa (ritzcarlton.com). At the new Capella Ubud (capellahotels.com), choose from high intensity interval training (HIIT), jungle boot camp, and low-impact workouts overlooking verdant rice paddies.
Anantara’s Angkor Resort in Cambodia (anantara.com) offers guests the chance to run through jungle-clad temples as dawn breaks. Winding through the park’s most significant historical sites, your run is led by a personal tuk tuk, with hydration and healthy snacks on hand.
Westin Hotels and Resorts (westin.marriott.com) meanwhile, offer its very own run concierges who set you up with a running buddy, or help you plan a destination’s most scenic running route. Try it at the Westin Singapore and Westin Bund Centre Shanghai.
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